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Soybean Imports by China May Rise to Record, Grain Bureau Says

Soybean purchases by China, the biggest buyer, may climb 7.7 percent this year to a record on growing demand, according to the State Administration of Grain.

Imports for the year ending Dec. 31 may gain to 56 million metric tons from 52 million tons last year, Nie Zhenbang, director of the country’s top grain manager, said in speech to members of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in Beijing.

Increased buying may further spur a 10 percent rally in prices this year. Imports by China doubled in 2005-2011 as rising incomes and urbanization drove demand for meat, poultry and dairy.

China’s shrinking land and water resources are testing its ability to maintain grain self-sufficiency, Nie said in the meeting held March 10. Like crude oil, its dependency on overseas soybeans has exceeded 50 percent and “it’s questionable whether such high dependency on imports is sustainable,” Nie said.

Imports of soybeans in the marketing Oct. 1-Sept. 30 may reach 55 million tons, the U.S. Department of Agriculture forecast March 9. China’s current annual imports of soybeans and cotton, of which it is also the largest buyer, would have taken 700 million mu of land to produce, according to Nie. In 2011 China’s grain planting totaled 1.66 billion mu, data by the Ministry of Agriculture show.

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